British Columbia

It's never been easier to keep waste from landfills, but are you doing your part?

'You have to find your why and for me it started out with the environment and I needed to feel like I was doing my part,' says zero waste blogger Katelin Leblond. 'For some people it's the financial aspect, some people it's the minimalist aspect but I have yet to meet a person who has adopted any sort of level of zero waste that has regretted it.'

To meet waste reduction and climate change goals municipalities need residents to do more recycling

A jar that Victoria B.C.'s Katelin Leblond filled with the waste she and her family were not able to recycle or compost over the course of a year. (Katelin Leblond/Facebook)

Katelin Leblond is about to crack the lid on her fourth garbage jar in 2018 — which shows how little waste she, her husband and her two children produce.

Each year since 2014, one recycled 1.5-litre glass container is all the Victoria woman has needed to collect what her family hasn't been able to divert otherwise.

"I really do care about my personal impact on the planet," she said, adding that it was a daunting commitment at first. "I cared but I wasn't walking the talk and wasn't walking the talk because I didn't know what to do."

Zero waste blogger Katelin Leblond collects items she can recycle or compost when eating out as part of her commitment to reducing her environmental impact on the planet. (Katelin Leblond/Facebook)

Living a zero-waste lifestyle means consuming less, but also finding ways to dispose of your trash by either recycling, reusing or composting.

The good news is that more people than ever are making an effort. The bad news is that there is still too much that could be recycled that's ending up in the garbage.

Metro Vancouver — the federation of 21 municipalities, one electoral area and Tsawwassen First Nation — wants to keep 80 per cent of all waste out its landfills by 2020. Currently only about 60 per cent is recycled.

It says organic waste, such as food scraps, still makes up the biggest portion of garbage — nearly a third — even though there is a ban on tossing food scraps into garbage bins and programs in place to compost it.

Although 90 per cent of apartment buildings or condos in Metro Vancouver have compost bins, only 20 per cent of compostable organics and paper is being recycled from this type of housing.

At a landfill, those items create methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, according to Metro Vancouver.

The City of Vancouver's landfill in Delta accepted 382,711 tonnes of municipal solid waste in 2015 along with 124,044 tonnes of demolition waste. (CBC)

Regions across Canada, like Metro Vancouver, need residents to do more to meet waste goals.

"A lot of times what we tell people is don't throw it out — call us first," said Harvinder Aujala who works for the Recycling Council of B.C. or RCBC.

Its primary role is to help residents figure out what to do with items once they are no longer useful, rather than just dumping them in the garbage or — even worse — in alleys or at the side of the road.

Metro Vancouver says illegal dumping in the region is costing municipalities $5 million a year. It says many people dump because they don't know what else to do with big, bulky items. (Tina Lovegreen/CBC)

RCBC runs a hotline (604-RECYCLE or 1-800-667-4321) and has a smartphone app in addition to its website for people to inquire about recycling.

Since 2014 calls have gone from around 50,000 a year to more than 85,000, while website visits and use of the app have also grown exponentially.

Aujala says people are becoming more savvy about the potential of recycling.

"If somebody calls with an item that isn't recyclable a lot of times they're quite surprised," she said. "They're willing even to hold onto it for the potential that maybe there will be a recycling program in the future."

Leblond says making the effort to reduce waste and divert what you do make is good for the environment, helps saves money and even contributes to well-being by making life more simple.

"You have to find your why and for me it started out with the environment and I needed to feel like I was doing my part," she said.

While Leblond can count on two hands the number of times since 2014 she has bought her family a bag of chips — the bags are difficult to recycle — she encourages anyone to adopt zero waste at a level that's comfortable.

"I think that there is a lot of fear in change and people resist but you've just got to try it," she said.

Watch Katelin Leblond explain how to avoid four wasteful items:

Refuse single-use plastic says zero waste blogger

6 years ago
Duration 0:31
Katelin Leblond explains how refusing straws, single-use coffee cups, plastic bags and water bottles can dramatically reduce waste.